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Attorney General Reviewing Mueller Report Now; Justice Department Official Says No Additional Indictments Expected; House Democrats to Hold Call on Mueller Report at 3:00 P.M.; Trump Silent on Mueller Report During Mar-a-Lago Weekend; Trump's Legal Woes May Not Be Over; DOJ Not Sending "Principal Conclusions" to Hill Today; 29 Russians and Entities Charged in Mueller Probe; The Long Road of the Russia Investigation. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 23, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:10] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. Thanks so much for joining me in Washington D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We're following our breaking news right now. U.S. Attorney General William Barr is at the Department of Justice reviewing Robert Mueller's Russia report and deciding what parts to release to Congress and the public. He says the principle conclusions of the report could be released as early as today.
Meanwhile, President Trump is golfing in West Palm Beach, Florida, spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago surrounded by top staffers, his family, key members of his legal team. So far, there has been an unusual silence from the president on the Mueller report. But the White House is already privately framing this as a win for President Trump.
And in just a couple of hours, House Democrats will hold a phone call to discuss the latest developments.
CNN's political correspondent, Sara Murray, joining me right now.
While the details of the report remain a mystery, we do know one major headline, no expected additional indictments.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That is a major headline. And, look, we got the signal that this was winding down yesterday. We saw prosecutors leaving Mueller's office early and, soon after that, Bill Barr announced to Congress as well as to the rest of the world that Mueller was finished with his two-year investigation. Now we wait for the headlines.
MURRAY (voice-over): Attorney General William Barr announcing the end of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month Russia investigation in a one-page statement Friday evening. Barr wrote to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that he is reviewing Mueller's report, and, "I may be in a position to advise you of principle conclusions as soon as this weekend."
A Justice Department official tells CNN those conclusions are expected to be made public.
A senior Justice Department official also added there will be no further indictments from the special counsel.
In a major victory for the president, Mueller ended his probe without interviewing Trump. The president answered only a set of written questions about Russian collusion, none about obstruction of justice.
In the hours before Mueller officially ended his work, Trump continued railing against the Russia probe.
DONALD TURMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion, there was obstruction, everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. It's all a big witch hunt. It's all a big hoax.
MURRAY: Friday evening, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a more muted response: "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the special counsel's report."
While the formal investigation is over, speculation about what it found is only just beginning. Barr told congressional leaders there were no such instances during the special counsel's investigation in which Mueller's proposed actions were overruled by leaders at the Justice Department.
Barr plans to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller to determine how much of Mueller's confidential report can be released publicly and to Congress.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can tell you right now my goal and intent is to get as much information out as I can, consistent with the regulation.
MURRAY: But Democrats quickly demanded the report be made public in its entirety.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, it's imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D), CALIFORNIA: Trust, but we have to verify. So we will ultimately see the full report because the president is outnumbered. We have now the subpoena power.
MURRAY: Since being appointed in May of 2017, Mueller has remained silent and out of the public eye.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States. MURRAY: Mueller's investigation has led to charges against 37
defendants and netted seven guilty pleas, as well as one conviction at trial. Trump's long-time political adviser, Roger Stone, is set to go to trial in November for lying to Congress. Also among those charged, 26 Russians and three Russian entities, many of whom Mueller says worked to manipulate social media and hack Democrats to benefit Trump in the 2016 election. Mueller's probe has also swept up several key Trump allies and confidantes, including his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You betrayed your country!
MURRAY: -- his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I am ashamed of my own failings.
MURRAY: But Mueller never brought charges against anyone in Trump's orbit for colluding with the Russians to influence the election. It remains to be seen if Mueller found any direct evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice that may be detailed in the confidential report he delivered to the attorney general.
MURRAY: Now, the White House may be feeling confident about the report at this point. But we have to remember that this investigation did uncover that there were 16 Trump associates who had contact with Russians that, time and time again, when they had these alarming contacts, things you might have reported to the FBI in a normal campaign, they decided to pursue the dirt that was being offered to them, to take the meeting. And over and over again, they lied about these interactions. So this could be a report that has some political difficulties in it for the president and his team, even though there are no more indictments coming -- Fred?
[13:05:24] WHITFIELD: There was a stock pile of indictments and charges that did result.
All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Let's check in with CNN's Jessica Schneider at the Department of Justice.
The attorney general has been reviewing this report for almost 24 hours. What are you looking for when it comes to principle conclusions? And these are conclusions drafted by Mueller, not necessarily Barr, right?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Right now, the attorney general is going through this confidential report by Robert Mueller. And the attorney general basically has to come up with a summary of these principle conclusions drawn from the report that he will then submit to Congress and, in turn, the public. But this is quite a process here, Fredricka. The attorney general
received this report late yesterday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. He did spend several hours reviewing it and was back at the Justice Department just before 10:00 this morning to continue that review and eventual drafting of this summary that will go to Congress and the public.
But the problem here is there are a lot of unknowns. We don't know how complex and complete this confidential report is from the special counsel, how long exactly it will take Bill Barr to go through this. Then of course, not only does he have to go through this confidential report, but then he has to draw out the key conclusions, the principle conclusions from this report in order to then draft his own report that goes to Congress.
No doubt, this report that he submits will be heavily scrutinized by Congress, by members of the possible and, of course, the president and his team as well. So no doubt that's on Bill Barr's mind right now as he sits in this building in the Justice Department going over this, Fredricka. But we do know that he is hard at work. And this could come any minute, any hour really, this report to Congress that we should get a glimpse of -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Barr not alone. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, is with him because he's been in this every step of the way.
SCHNEIDER: That's exactly right. And the attorney general was clear to Congress in that letter that he released yesterday that he will be conferring not only with the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing this and, in fact, the deputy attorney general, the one who appointed Special Counsel Mueller. He will be consulting with Rosenstein as well as the special counsel himself, Robert Mueller. Those are two things that could further draw out this process.
And while it's expected that this report will be issued to Congress this weekend, of course, we know how the government works and that deadline could always slip. But of course, we watch and wait here at the Department of Justice -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: They'll do it on their own time.
Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
In just a couple of hours, perhaps, House Democrats will, indeed, hold their phone call to brief the entire caucus on the latest developments from the Mueller report.
CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is live on Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, Democrats have been demanding to see the entire report for some time now but it's unclear exactly what kind of information they'll get today.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Fred. Democrats have been very aggressive in pushing for the full Mueller report to be released. And they have an important conference call in just over two hours. At 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, the entire House Democratic caucus will call into one conference call essentially to try to get ready to prepare for that new information that could be received as early as today on Capitol Hill from the attorney general. But also prepare, writ-large, their strategy going forward and how they are going to specifically push to get the full Mueller report.
Many Democrats have been very aggressive and vocal and very public in the last 24 hours in the push in not only getting the full Mueller report but also they're pushing for the supporting evidence, underlying information, evidence and information that Mueller used in his own investigation.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, saying in a statement, quote, "We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials. Transparency in the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith and the rule of law must be the priority."
This notably is a sentiment that is shared by many Capitol Hill Republicans as well. The ranking Republican on that committee, Congressman Doug Collins, he, too, called for the entire report to be released. He said, quote, "I expect DOJ to release the special counsel's report to this committee and public without delay and to maximum extent permitted by the law."
There most certainly will be on Capitol Hill a push not only from Mueller but for the attorney general to potentially come up here and testify.
But at this moment, Fred, safe to say that Capitol Hill is stuck in a holding pattern similar to what Jessica described over at DOJ, just waiting for the details from the attorney general -- Fred?
[13:10:07] WHITFIELD: All right, Sunlen Serfaty, on the Hill, thank you so much.
Let's talk further about all of this. Joining me right now, former federal prosecutor and CNN's legal analyst, Shan Wu, CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, and CNN's Kara Scannell.
Good to see all of you.
This is something else. We haven't heard a word from the president, Kaitlan.
WHITFIELD: Does this mean the team with him at Mar-a-Lago have seized his Blackberry and all capabilities of speaking out?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- so I wouldn't bet on that. But we do know the president is golfing right now. We knew he was at the golf course. We have video of him from one of our star photographers who saw the president actually golfing out on the links this morning. And the president has not said anything about this yet since yesterday when Emmett Flood, one of his attorneys, in Palm Beach with him, got the call that the Mueller report had been submitted and the investigation was over.
We know that the president is obviously aware of what's going on. We have video of him reading the newspaper headlines this morning on the way to the golf course. There he is golfing there. The president obviously keeps up to date on the news. But it's raising questions about why he hasn't publicly said anything yet. His aides and allies are out there saying this is a victory for him --
WHITFIELD: -- saying at this point?
COLLINS: They -- that's the point here, what will the president say. Of course, no one can keep the president from tweeting. That's something they've realized since he's been in office. So he'll tweet of his own volition. But we do know he's surrounded by a bigger staff presence than normal, not only those lawyers, the two big heavyweights and their deputies, but two press secretaries and several other senior White House officials are with the president right now.
WHITFIELD: All right.
So, Kara, as far as we understand, reportedly, there will be no further indictments but does that mean that everyone is in the clear?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all. What we've seen from Robert Mueller and how he's operated, he's operated within the zone of his mandate of this issue of collusion. But he's referred out a number of investigations already that we know of. We know of other offices investigating other areas of this, like the inauguration. So the Southern District of New York is very busy. The D.C. U.S. attorney's office is busy. The Eastern District of Virginia is busy. We have state prosecutors getting in the mix. Because all these things start to percolate and bubble up, so we have a lot of scrutiny on Trump's business practices, as well as some of the transition period and the inaugural fund.
WHITFIELD: Shan, even though there's all that at SDNY and investigations ongoing here in Washington, might Trump's team still consider this a bit of a victory because their client managed to escape a one-on-one, face-to-face interview with Bob Mueller?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That was certainly a good call on their part. It might be that they just want to keep him uninformed at the moment and keep the party going so he doesn't tweet. The legal problems are just beginning because now comes the question of, what is it that Barr will not disclose. And there's going to be a lot of legal arguments about what Congress wants, what they're going to subpoena. Will they subpoena Mueller? How can the White House still assert executive privilege given that many of witnesses have already testified, arguably waived the privilege? Although their attorneys will be quick to say, no, we reserved that right. There are a lot of legal battles coming down the pipe.
WHITFIELD: Speaking of Congress, there are some lawmakers who have commented thus far. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D), DELAWARE: The report needs to be released as fully as possible, as soon as possible to Congress because it's our job to conduct oversight. It's entirely possible that there was evidence of misdeeds, of inappropriate, even unpatriotic behavior that did not rise to the level of a chargeable offense either because the president, under DOJ policy, cannot himself be indicted while serving in office, or because these were untoward, inappropriate things that deserve oversight and sunshine but did not rise to the level of a crime.
REP. CHRIS STEWART, (R), UTAH: This isn't national security in danger here. These aren't nuclear codes. We're not revealing any sources and m methods. This is a political conversation, a political debate. And I've always said this should be released. All of this information should be released. Much of our committee work should be released. I think it's important for the American people to have access to all of this. One of the reasons is, if the Mueller report were redacted, if any paragraph or any sentence were redacted, I'm afraid people would point to that and say, look, that's where the collusion is, they're just not showing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Kaitlan, while the Mueller report may be done, is this just the beginning for the political debate to go into high gear?
COLLINS: You've seen what we've seen from these lawmakers so far. Republicans saying this is a vindication for the president and he's been exonerated by the fact that no one has been indicted by the special counsel. And Democrats who have built -- some of them who have built this up as a big bombshell trying to say, well, we're waiting to see what the documents, we want to see not only what Mueller has to say but also what the underlying evidence is here and that could lead us to subpoenaing those documents or the special counsel himself. So it's setting us up for this fight that we've had and we've seen throughout Washington. And we know that this investigation, regardless of what is in the report, has shaped his presidency so far, changed everything, from not only in how he interacts with certain lawmakers but also who works in his administration, who the attorney general is. That's why Jeff Sessions is no longer leading the Justice Department and Bill Barr is there today reviewing this report. And it really has changed so much. And you're going to continue to see that political divide from Republicans and Democrats continue to go on as we wait to find out what the principle conclusions in this are.
[13:15:30] WHITFIELD: Kara, is this buckle up, because there's going to be quite the widening divide between the executive branch, Congress, DOJ, all of it?
SCANNELL: That's right. It's going to come to a head and there's going to be an argument about executive privilege, arguments about grand jury material.
What is interesting here I think is the Democrats are going to take a page from the Republican playbook. The Republicans, when they were in control of the House, Devin Nunes had pushed to get all -- like 800,000 pages of documents related to Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation was made public. That was sort of an extraordinary move. He made similar demands of the Justice Department under the FISA warrants. We've seen Democrats keeping track of those moves all along, kind of laying the foundation, saying, well, when the table is turned, we're going to do the same thing. I think we hear that a lot from Chairman Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee in the House. He's one of the people out there claiming, saying, we want to see all the information, we want to see all the underlying information.
WHITFIELD: Shan, what are your burning thoughts upcoming? What's next potentially?
WU: I think --
WHITFIELD: Besides hearing what's in the report?
WU: Besides that.
WU: The attorney general is doing a --
WU: The attorney general is doing a hurried slow walk of this. He is very quick to say he's going to possibly brief Congress this afternoon, but he has the power of the editorial position because this concept of, what are the principle conclusions, that's not a legal definition. That's up to him. So I think it will be watered down.
WHITFIELD: Do you see him doing that?
WU: I think it will be a little bit watered down. And also, of course, there's a lot of counterintelligence issues still going on so he could easily say, oh, there's a lot here I can't really talk about it.
COLLINS: And that's the big thing here. The White House wants to see this before it goes anywhere else. The president hasn't said anything yet but we know, for the past two weeks, he's been quizzing his legal team day and night asking, when is this investigation going to be over and what is this report going to look like. The president is heavily invested in this for obvious reasons. So the White House wants to get their hands on this report before it goes to anyone else.
WHITFIELD: But could it, would it influence Barr in how he deciphers this report and what he makes a decision on, you know, as far as what is released or not?
COLLINS: So far, the White House has said they're going to do whatever Bill Barr wants to do, it's totally up to him. But of course, there's a chance they could exert their executive privilege over those conversations between the president and aides that could be in this report. They want to have some influence over this report and help shape what comes out.
WU: I think there's a confidence on the part of the White House that they may be in a mind link with Bill Barr on this.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there.
Shan, Kaitlan, Kara, good to see you all. Thank you.
WU: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: We're following this breaking news out of London. Take a look at the crowds here. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of protestors packing the streets as a crucial Brexit deadline approaches. They are now demanding a second referendum. Right now, British Prime Minister Theresa May has until April 12th to get British lawmakers to agree to her Brexit deal or leave the E.U. without a deal. If parliament agrees to a deal, the E.U., the European Union, will give the U.K. until May 22nd to leave.
Still ahead, the Mueller report may be complete but the potential legal threats surrounding the president and his family may just be getting started. More on the other investigations swirling around the White House next.
[13:22:53] WHITFIELD: The special counsel's Russia investigation may be over but the president's legal troubles are not necessarily finished. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have already issued a broad subpoena to President Trump's Inaugural Committee. And there's also an investigation into campaign finances, including the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. New York prosecutors were also the ones to obtain a guilty plea against Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and have also charged Paul Manafort.
I want to bring in Lis Wiehl, a former federal prosecutor and counsel for Democrats during the Clinton impeachment, and Matthew Rosenberg, the national security correspondent for the "New York Times" and a CNN national security analyst.
Good to see you both.
There are no more indictments coming from the Mueller investigation, but investigators in New York don't have the same narrow focus that Mueller did.
So, Lis, what can we expect from them in particular?
LIS WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Exactly, the Southern District of New York, also known as the Sovereign District of New York, is very broad and we know that those grand jury subpoenas have been going out.
We also know that when Michael Cohen's office was raided, they took certain recordings. Those recordings having to do with the hush money payments that you were just talking about. Those go to mail and wire fraud.
We also know that Michael Cohen has been working with the Southern District of New York. And he referenced that working with the Southern District in his testimony. So we have that.
We know the Inaugural Committee has been looked into. Many subpoenas going out there. That goes to whether or not foreign nationals may have been paying part of that $107 million that was raised for the Inaugural Committee. That would be breaking many laws right there.
We also know that they're looking into insurance fraud, of all things, and real estate deals. Those would be in the civil arena.
So we're looking at criminal statutes here, civil fraud, a wide variety of things. The thing that the Southern District has to be looking out for, of all things, is the statute of limitations, which is six years in fraud, which would mean that if the president is a one-termer, that would be criminal violations that they could get him on, not so much if he's a two-termer.
[13:25:08] WHITFIELD: Matt, the subpoena issued to the Trump Inaugural Committee is pretty broad. I mean, donations from foreign nationals among the items that make it interesting. How much material, however, might the Mueller report or at least that probe assist the New York Southern District?
MATT ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL ECURITY ANALYST: I think it's a hard thing to tell with the Mueller report because we just don't know what's in it. We know the Southern District has a lot of material here, the vendors for the inauguration from New York. So you're looking at money coming in and money going out. There's all kinds of stages that cost millions of dollars, things like that that went on. So when it comes to that, I think, for the Trump campaign and for the president himself, there's real legal issues there, real legal problems potentially that, if you're the president or people around him, you can't feel good about it.
WHITFIELD: Potentially, for the president, it would be really still post office, right?
ROSENBERG: Probably. The Justice Department regulations say we don't charge a sitting president. It's a big debate among legal scholars. I don't think it's happening in this administration. So we know people near Mr. Trump have said one of the reasons he wouldn't get reelected if there's real potential legal jeopardy.
WHITFIELD: Those around him, of course, they have a lot to worry about potentially right now.
So, Lis, Paul Manafort, he's charged with 16 crimes. Are any of those charges going to give us more insight into the dealings that he may have had with the president or the campaign?
WIEHL: Absolutely. I think really most of this started with the Paul Manafort charges. That's really where the Southern District was looking. Don't forget that Mueller all along was peeling off information that he received to the Southern District and also to D.C. and other districts. Because when Mueller looked at things that he wasn't going to take any further, he then peeled that information off and gave it to the Southern District, along with information and also along with potentially cooperating witnesses, not maybe so much with Manafort but certainly with Cohen and maybe with others. Much of this, of course, is covered with grand jury, which obviously is secret and we won't find out for quite a while.
WHITFIELD: Matt, when you look at that graphic and see in totality 199 charges, 37 people, many of whom were in Donald Trump's orbit, that in comparison to what may be upcoming with the totality of state charges, which appears to weigh more heavily?
ROSENBERG: I mean, look, 37 people charged, a number of convictions in under two years is an amazingly fast investigation. This is the president of the United States. These are people around him. I think it's important. But we have no evidence. We don't know if there's any sign that they found evidence of conspiracy on President Trump and the Russians. They found a lot of wrongdoing. And the state charges look at corrupt behavior. There's a lot of those investigations out there and the totality of them could be very damaging for the president.
WHITFIELD: The president has worked really hard to kind of distance himself from all of these players and all of these charges --
WHITFIELD: -- still saying no collusion and that there's nothing to the investigation and it's not me.
ROSENBERG: Look, he can say all he wants but, here's the thing, you have his personal lawyer of many years. He may say, Paul Manafort, I barely knew him. The guy was his campaign chairman. You can say they have distance from me but they don't and people are smart enough to know that.
WHITFIELD: Lis, it seems as though it turns out Paul Manafort was perhaps the big fish if there are no more indictments at least to come from the Mueller probe. Is that how you see it?
WIEHL: Well, from the Mueller probe certainly, but you look at the Southern District, I definitely think we're going to be seeing indictments from the Southern District. They've been working this case for quite a while.
Let me just say this, President Trump, early on, when the Southern District was looking at this, went to then-acting Matthew Whitaker, who was the acting U.S. district attorney, and said, can't we get somebody loyal in that position. Why would you want somebody loyal in that position if you weren't trying to control what was going on in the Southern District? Now, that didn't happen but that just shows you how concerned he was about what was going on in the Southern District.
WHITFIELD: And Citizen Trump and perhaps his family still perhaps very concerned about what could come out of the Southern District.
Matt Rosenberg, Lis Wiehl, thanks so much to both of you.
WIEHL: You've got it.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.
[13:59:41] Up next, for someone who usually has no objection speaking or tweeting, what is on the mind of the president today? He's staying surprisingly silent now that the Mueller report has come to a close. We'll discuss right after this.
[13:34:24] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to Washington D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We continue our breaking news coverage. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his report. And while U.S. Attorney General William Barr continues reviewing the findings at this hour with leaders at the Justice Department, the president has decided to spend his day golfing. Cameras spotted the president on the links at his Florida golf course earlier in the last hour. And nearly 24 hours after Mueller delivered the final report, and the president has remained silent? Not only has he not commented on the report, he has not yet tweeted.
With me now is Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media correspondent and anchor for "RELIABLE SOURCES," also with me CNN political correspondent, Sara Murray.
Good to see you both.
[13:35:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Brian, how surprised are you that the president has refrained from uttering a word, tweeting a single letter?
STELTER: Maybe a little surprised but I think it shows that he is getting good counsel, getting good advice in this moment. The right thing is to wait until we have the facts from the DOJ, from what Robert Mueller has written. That's the right thing to do for the press, the president and the public. We're in this frustrating period. I think viewers feel what I'm feeling, too, frustration about this unknown that we're all in. No one's been vindicated. I think the president's aides may know that. Maybe they're encouraging him to stay off the Twitter. Hey, it's a great day to go golfing in the meantime.
CABRERA: It looked lovely there.
Sara, the president is showing this kind of restraint, it's pretty remarkable. He's usually quick to the draw. But he is surrounded by a lot of support there, people probably advising him to do exactly this.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
MURRAY: I've been on trips with him to Florida where he has essentially no aide in site.
MURRAY: He has lots of aids with him. He has press staffers with him. We saw photos of him yesterday chatting with Emmett Flood, who is one of the White House attorneys who has been overseeing these Russian matters. He's probably going to be getting updates from these folks and also probably encouraging him, who are saying, look, let's wait, let's see what the principle conclusions are. He can hold off. There will be plenty of time to dance in the end zone, which I'm sure is what the White House is going to do no matter what this does.
Brian, so far, I mean, the White House and at least people in his orbit want to consider this a victory. But that we haven't heard from the president, and along the way he has said so much about the Mueller investigation in the past. This is just a reminder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.
How many times do I have to answer this question?
TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.
This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
The Russia story is a total fabrication.
Russia did not help me. OK?
TRUMP: I call it the Russian hoax.
They made up the whole Russia hoax. That was a Democrat hoax.
It's a Democrat hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So then, Brian, you know, how will the president and his team really respond, because if all of this has been a hoax, if the Mueller report was meaningless, and now you're going to embrace it if it appears as though the findings just might be favorable to you --
STELTER: Sounds slightly hypocritical, yes, indeed. Look, I think the coming days may be the ultimate test of Trump's alternative reality. He's built this up over the last few years through his claims, through his tweets and through his supporters in the media. He has built up this alternative reality that says the entire Mueller report is a hoax. That is a kind of industry (ph) technic. It's straight from rhetoric 101, straight from the college classroom. Say the same thing over and over again to make it true. Most Americans have rejected that but some have bought in. I think we will continue to see that strategy in these coming days.
Remember, though one, of his biggest supporters on TV, Jeanine Pirro, is off the air. She's been suspended. The president does have a lot of boosters who are going to repeat his message no matter what it is in the coming days. And that's why I say it's going to be the ultimate test of this alternative reality.
CABRERA: Sara, it's not just the Mueller report that the White House -- that's really consumed the White House but there are other investigations that come from the origins of the Mueller report.
MURRAY: That's right. One of the president's biggest concerns when the special counsel was named is how this could go in so many directions and we've seen that with some of these referrals out to New York. We saw when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, he implicated President Trump as the person who directed him to make these hush money payments to women. We don't know what SDNY is going to do with that information down the road maybe when President Trump isn't president. We've seen investigations into his transition, into his company, into his charity, into the inauguration.
WHITFIELD: Into the money eventually.
MURRAY: Yes. You know, so these are not things that are just going to go away overnight just because it's the end of the Mueller investigation.
CABRERA: We'll end it for now because there's much more around the corner, we know.
Sara Murray, Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
MURRAY: Thank you. WHITFIELD: Meantime, we're going to take you in a different direction with this breaking news. This taking place off the coast of Norway. A crippled cruise ship carrying 1300 people being evacuated right now while at sea. Take a look closely at the middle of this video. You can actually see that there are helicopters that are above that ship and they're trying to rescue, airlift people from the ship. There are also a number of boats involved in this rescue. This all started when the "Viking Sky" cruise ship sent a mayday distress signal due to engine problems in those choppy waters there. And as of an hour ago, only about 50 passengers had been airlifted off the ship. This is going to be quite the task trying to get more than 1,000 people left on the ship, getting them off. We'll update you as we know it.
[13:40:06] Meantime, we've got this other breaking news. Let's bring it back to the nation's capital. From Capitol Hill, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is not expected to submit his principle conclusions after all on the Mueller report to Congress today.
Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, what more do you know?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the waiting game up here on Capitol Hill and across the country continues. We have confirmation now from multiple sources, both from the DOJ and Capitol Hill, that Congress has been informed by the Department of Justice that they will not be receiving this summary that had been anticipated and promised by the attorney general, Bill Barr. We know that, according to that letter that he sent to Congress last night, Friday evening, he promised that at some point during the weekend he may be in a position to, quote unquote, "provide the principle conclusions of the Mueller report." So certainly in the time since, everyone has certainly been waiting with bated breath to get that report, that summary. And certainly committees here on Capitol Hill, like House Judiciary and such, waiting for what he would send to get some of the conclusions of the Mueller report.
The headline being here, Fred, that at least Capitol Hill will have to wait another day. We don't know for sure when it will come but we do know not today.
CABRERA: OK, so, if we're now hearing from Barr it's not today, however, in the letter, it said it could happen this weekend. We also know that members of Congress, Democrats, were going to have a 3:00 phone call today. Is that still on or was that predicated on whether these principle conclusions were going to be revealed by Barr?
SERFATY: I believe that's certainly still on. That is essentially House Democrats just huddling, getting all their members on the phone to kind of game out the strategy going forward over the next 24, 48 hours. Our assumption is that will continue certainly as Democrats plan their next steps. It should be noted that this is the end of a congressional recess. It's been a week long. So members of Congress are spread out in their home districts across the country. Staff is in many times in those districts as well. So Capitol Hill right now is a ghost town. We will see as members slowly make their way back. And we know that a few members, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, is heading back today. As people slowly trickle back to Capitol Hill and Washington, it will be interesting when, of course, this report hits, whether it's tomorrow, the next day, we don't know, but we do know again it is not today.
CABRERA: We had heard from an aide of Senator Feinstein's office that the expectation was, when they were to get these principle conclusions, it would not necessarily be over a phone call to members of Congress but it would likely come in writing or e-mail in some fashion. Is that still the expectation when it does happen?
SERFATY: I think everyone is really guessing at this point. And I think we've heard from multiple aides of lawmakers saying that their expectation and their hope is that they would receive -- once the ranking members of the important committees receive that information from the attorney general, that they would brief their members and that this would be done in a very formalized way. Of course, we know up here on Capitol Hill it doesn't always happen that way, so everyone is saying we hope it doesn't leak elsewhere, that this is done in a formalized information so we will see.
CABRERA: The name of the game, spontaneity. Just roll with it.
Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.
And we'll be right back.
[13:47:25] CABRERA: Back to our breaking news, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished his investigation and the report is currently in the hands of the U.S. attorney general. During the almost two-year investigation, 37 people and entities were charged. And of those, 29 are Russian. Mueller alleged some of them executed an elaborate social media propaganda conspiracy in 2016, while others allegedly looted computers and accounts related to the Democratic National Committee hack.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow for us.
Fred, what is the reaction in Russia, even though we don't know what the report says, but we do know that it's completed?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I think the Russians are also waiting to see what the principle conclusions are going to be. So far, there's very little coming out of official Moscow, official Russia, certainly from the Kremlin. I can tell you that Russia media, of course, which most of it is state run, has been pretty straight forward in its reports about the Mueller report. However, if you then go to officials -- and we've been working the phones and several other devices trying to get ahold of them -- there really isn't very much coming. Got in touch with the Kremlin, they didn't bother to answer our query. We also got in touch with the Russian foreign ministry. The spokesman for the foreign ministry only said, look I've commented on this matter many times, I'm not going to comment on yet another fragment. You're absolutely right, of course, there's a broad range of topics
that the Russians could and once they get information will comment on. A lot of those people who were indicted, especially for the hacking, obviously part of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU. A lot of points there. The Russians, for their part, say they were not behind this, they had nothing to do with this.
Then there's the Internet Research Industry, that troll factory, the influence operation that you were talking about. It's a very interesting point there were the Russians. The Russians saying that's a private entity, has nothing to do with the Kremlin, even though the man who's behind that entity had very much a lot to do with official Russia. He's been seen in meetings with senior people, with foreign heads of state as well.
So certainly, the Russians, at this point in time, it really seems as though they're also waiting for anything to come out. One of the things that the Russians are very good at is actually message control. It's not only the Kremlin and the foreign ministry not saying nothing. Even any other politician, absolutely zero right now before we know anything from the Justice Department -- Fredricka?
[13:50:02] WHITFIELD: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.
We'll be right back.
CABRERA: Welcome back. We're following breaking news this afternoon. U.S. Attorney General Bob Barr (sic) will not be giving principal conclusions to Congress today on the Mueller report. It has been a long road for this investigation.
Here is CNN's Jason Carroll.
TRUMP: Two years, we've gone through this nonsense, because there's no collusion with Russia. You know that better than anybody. And there's no obstruction.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before Robert Mueller's appointment, it was clear what Donald Trump thought of the Russia investigation and those responsible for it.
[13:55:06] TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
CARROLL: January 2017 --
TRUMP: He has become more famous than me.
CARROLL: -- classified documents are presented to President-Elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower by then-FBI Director James Comey. The documents include allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Trump. From that explosive beginning, came an early setback for the new administration, as questions are raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and contacts he had with a Russian official during the 2016 presidential campaign.
JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have communications with the Russians.
CARROLL: Turns out, Sessions had communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.
SESSIONS: It is good to be with you.
CARROLL: March 2017, Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation.
SESSIONS: They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigations.
CARROLL: May 9, 2017, a startling development.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: A bombshell at the White House.
CARROLL: Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man charged with overseeing the investigation.
What's more, Trump told NBC News he was considering the Russia investigation when he was deciding whether to fire Comey.
TRUMP: I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made made-up story.
CARROLL: May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces the appointment of Robert Mueller as the special counsel. And with each passing month, the investigation moved closer to Trump associates.
CARROLL: October 2017, Paul Manafort and his business partner and former Trump deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, are indicted on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. Gates later pleaded guilty to two counts and became a cooperating witness in the investigation. Manafort was tried, convicted, and sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison.
Trouble for Trump reached his most inner circle.
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Donald Trump, as the next president of the United States of America.
CARROLL: December 2017, former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, pleads guilty to lying to the FBI regarding his conversations with Kislyak. Flynn also agrees to cooperate with the Mueller probe.
TRUMP: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life. And I feel very badly.
CARROLL: February 2018, Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering with the election through social media.
April 2018, things took a dramatic turn.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE)
CARROLL: Acting on a referral from Mueller to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, FBI agents raided the home, hotel room and office of Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight criminal count, including campaign finance violations.
COHEN: I acted loyal to a man when I should not have.
CARROLL: November 7, the day after the midterm election, after months of publicly attacking him, Trump fires Jeff Sessions.
CARROLL: Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whittaker, who had been critical of the Mueller probe, took his place.
MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have usually been the only one that says there's no evidence of obstruction of justice or collusion.
CARROLL: As the Trump investigation appeared to be winding down earlier this year, long-time Trump associate, Roger Stone, is indicted.
In January, the FBI raided Stone's Florida home. The special counsel alleges Stone coordinated with senior Trump campaign officials and sought stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump's opponents. Stone still awaits his fate on the charges he faces and has proclaimed his innocence.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Justice Department is telling us that Attorney General Bill Barr has now received the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
CARROLL: It will be up to Trump's new attorney general, William Barr, to decide how much of the report will be made public.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: And don't forget to join CNN tomorrow night for the next installment of a new four-part CNN original series, "TRICKY DICK." It explores Richard Nixon's rise, fall, incredible comeback and political destruction featuring never-before-seen footage. That's tomorrow night. 9:00. Hello, again, everyone. Thanks for being with me from the nation's
capital. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We start with breaking news. Sources are now telling CNN U.S. Attorney General William Barr will not release the principal conclusions of Robert Mueller's Russia report to Congress today. Barr said that release could come as early as this weekend. Right now, he is still reviewing the report and deciding what parts to release to Congress, and to the public.